TJ interviews: Entrepreneur Piers Linney

In this exclusive interview with Champions Speakers, Piers Linney shares his entrepreneurial insight.

Award-winning entrepreneur and former Dragons’ Den Investor, Piers Linney is one of the biggest names in British business. A self-made success, Piers is widely recognised as a champion of entrepreneurship. Hailed Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014 at the Black British Awards and named in 2018’s Top 100 BAME Leaders in Business, Piers is leading the evolution of modern British business.

In this exclusive interview with Champions Speakers, Piers Linney shares his entrepreneurial insight, offering advice to start-ups, tips on how to survive a global pandemic and his predictions for 2021.

What advice can you offer young entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

You need to have three key things if you’re starting a business. Firstly, you need to have a passion for it, or at least a real interest in it. Secondly, you need to have the skills to make it successful, i.e. you or your team around you. Finally, you need to have a market.

If you don’t have passion, it’s a job. If you don’t have a market, it’s a hobby, and if you haven’t got the skills, you’re going to fail.

What can what advice can you offer business owners who are currently struggling to stay afloat because of coronavirus?

Number one: Make those changes and difficult decisions as quickly as possible – don’t delay. Number two: Go digital, as far as you possibly can. This will give you access to more customers online and reduce costs. Number three: Pivot your business. You’ve got to think of different ways to use your assets, whatever they may be – the people, the talent, the know-how – to make money in different ways.

If you don’t have passion, it’s a job. If you don’t have a market, it’s a hobby, and if you haven’t got the skills, you’re going to fail.

For example, I’ve got friends who own restaurants and they’ve turned them into a takeaway service, because the key is to survive. It’s much harder to start a new business than to grow back the one that’s got all that history.

What qualities do you possess that you believe led to your entrepreneurial success?

I’ve always been fascinated by business. I’ve always just enjoyed it, forget the money, I just find it fascinating about how you’ve got a product, a market, a customer. I’m fascinated by the process – why do they buy it, how do you sell it to them, how do you make money and how do you grow it. I’ve always been fascinated by that, ever since I started my first business at 13.

When it comes down to it, I’ve won some and I’ve lost some. But you’ve got to be tenacious. You’ve got to really be focused and resilient.

Why is diversity and inclusion important in the workplace and what does that mean to you?

Essentially, my view is that everyone should have a fair shot and people don’t because there are barriers, invisible barriers. Employees can be biased, and this bias can be conscious or unconscious.

The entrepreneurs of colour struggle more. But the point is that diverse businesses are more profitable businesses, they’re stronger businesses. So actually, in business, it is a competitive advantage to embrace diversity in all of its form.

You should be reaching out into your community or the job market, to find talent, irrespective of what they look like, what God they believe in or who they love.

If you are biased, you’re doing your business a disservice. So, the point is, we should all be working hard to connect talent and ambition with opportunity. And if we do that, we’re all going to benefit as a nation.

If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the start of your business journey, what would it be?

Don’t chase rabbits down holes. When you start out, it’s a bit like your first teenage girlfriend or boyfriend. You think this is it, nothing else matters and you can’t imagine ever being with anyone else ever again.

It’s the same when you start out when you’re young in business, you think this is it and so it’s hard to pull back, take an objective view and make a change, or stop what you’re doing and do something else. As you get older and more experienced, you begin to realise that it’s better to cut your losses sometimes.

Which industries do you predict will dominate 2021?

I think small businesses are the backbone of our economy. You’ve got Brexit, you’ve got COVID-19, you’ve got a recession coming and probably a depression actually, so the only way we get back on our feet is by supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses.

They employ 60% of the private sector and there are 5.9m small businesses in the UK. Supporting small businesses is going to be big business in 2021.


Piers Linney and other Motivational Speakers are available to book via The Champions Speakers Agency.



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